Session Deconstruction: Star Wars – Edge of the Empire #4
While events conspired to keep us away from Star Wars last week, what with bizarre work schedules (one of the players had to be to work at 2:00am, being as his co-workers wanted to be out at noon on Saturday) and a gaming convention that another was traveling to, this week fell together nicely.
I’ve been putting together a campaign in broad strokes thus far, pulling details from some canned modules in order to give my players a feel for the worldset and the dice mechanics before we drop into the larger aspects of a metaplot. I’d read through a lot of the details of the various adventures from the different fora, lighting on a workable plot structure to hang the adventure from in the mean time. Since I’d played some of the different adventures as a player, I wasn’t interested in trying to run these same events for new players. (This is mainly because I had my own impressions and allegiances to the characters within, and running different characters through the places I had memories of seemed a bit … odd.) Right now, they’ve gotten about half-way through the third module and are gearing up for the final battle at the main villain’s base. It’s not a terribly complex module.
This adventure starts with the characters arriving on planet for whatever reason. I had short-cut the hook to force them to seek out the main conflict as part of their assignment, so it was no particular surprise when they found their main contact dead in an alley.
This was an element that annoyed me when I read the adventure originally, and as I was to find out, it annoyed my players in much the same way. The plot hook takes the form of broken and dying protocol droid that they find in an alley at the spaceport. The way the module’s written, this is something of a chance encounter which solidifies the main plot for the characters and brings them into the larger intrigues. For my purposes, it was one of the two droids that the characters were originally sent to make contact with.
As an aside, the plot has been coming together as such: In the first module, Under a Black Sun, the characters work for a syndicate that’s looking for a courier that betrayed them. This established the working relationship that I wanted to build out from there. The second module, Debts to Pay, sent them to a mining complex that their employer needed an update from. Being the only real colonization on the planet, I figured that the oridium was valuable enough that their criminal overlords would want a discreet way of moving it to a larger trading hub. This put them on the trail of a new astrogation route to facilitate the transfer. That’s where they show up in Trouble Brewing, as they’re looking for the droid that has the information they need.
It ends up being a little weird that the droid in question is an agromech droid, given that he’s got an extremely complex astrogation processor for a farm droid, but that’s weirdly nitpicky and well outside the threshold of care for most.
So anyway, they find this droid dying in an alley. The way the module is written, there is literally nothing that they can do to save the droid. He gasps out his message and expires on the spot. This is pretty annoying when it’s done with an NPC that the characters would otherwise try to save (Aerith from Final Fantasy comes to mind), but it’s even worse when it’s a mechanical being that logically shouldn’t have any volatile memory (think about how badly munged up C-3PO was in Empire). I tried to handwave it with broken memory chips and fading power supply, but I was greeted with a whole lot of annoyance about not being able to salvage the core workings and keep the droid intact.
More than likely, I shall retcon this particular detail so that they can bring the droid back to original function. It was a bit of a stupid element in the first place, and even I couldn’t make a good enough case that it made sense as I was trying to run the damned thing. I probably should have stuck with my original instincts and let the droid live.
There were a couple of random encounters to offer flavor to the spaceport of Formos, which were interesting and went a long way to give a sense to things. What I found interesting was that one of the players lit on the idea of the planet being strikingly similar to Pandora from Borderlands 1 & 2. I couldn’t refute it, being that it was a dusty and inhospitable sort of place filled with spacers, criminals and psychopaths. And given that I may end up basing a lot more adventures on the planet as they set up shop, I can use the references to my advantage.
I did leave out a couple of things from the original text. In much the same way that every adventure wanted to refer back to Hutts, there are an awful lot of references to Toydarians in these modules. I have a great antipathy to any mention of Toydarians (the race that Watto belonged to in the abominable prequels), if only because they’re such a horribly racist portrayal. The same goes for Nemoidians and Gungans. Only Jawas are spared editing, simply because it’s comparatively subtle. Otherwise, there’s the notation that the spaceport lies near Kessel, and my experience of the Kevin J. Anderson novels are enough for me to want to avoid dealing with the rat’s nest that are the spice mines. (And the spice that comes from there is a lot more generic, rather than Anderson’s ham-handed attempt to bring the spice melange into Star Wars canon.)
Eventually, the characters find their way to the main cantina. There commenced an unnecessary amount of nattering about the nature of musical instruments in the Star Wars universe, none of which had any relevance to the plot. Such is the nature of my group, where they get caught up in minutiae at points. They talked briefly to an information broker, dealt with a couple of social encounters and chose to trail some smugglers back to their nearby base on suspicion of being connected to the larger plot. When their distrusts were borne out, they casually walked in and outright killed the biggest, meanest guy in the room.
Weird and anti-climactic moments are becoming part and parcel of the Wookiee’s methodology. Before they had gotten to the planet, the Wookiee had decided to upgrade his vibroaxe, giving it a serrated, monomolecular blade. This had the effect of combining nicely with its extant stats to reduce its threshold for critical hits to next to nothing and boost up the potential critical damage greatly. In practical terms, it meant that almost any successful hit was going to guarantee a critical hit, and it would be brutal in its application.
For Edge of the Empire, the Critical Hit table ranges to 150%, necessitating a percentile roll to determine severity. It is technically the only way that a character can outright die. Without modification, that means that a normal range only will bring you to 100%, which is serious but otherwise non-fatal wound. With his talents and modifications, the Wookiee was already sitting at a solid boost of +50% to any roll on the chart. And EotE has a rule that states if you trigger multiple crits, these just add further percentage boosts. With all of this in place, the final roll topped out the chart, triggering an instant kill on the spot.
This is not to say that a Wookiee with a cyberarm wouldn’t have killed the gang leader outright. It’s just notable that I never had to bother, since the Critical Hit was enough to drop him on the spot. And all of this happened before any of the assembled gang members could react. A seven foot tall mass of rage and fur walks into the room, decapitates their leader and calmly informs them which side their bread was buttered on. I couldn’t imagine that any of the assembled goons were suicidal enough to try putting up a fight as a result of this. They gave up without a fight, and the session ended roughly there, with the raid on the main smuggler base being set up for the next session.
What did I take away from this session?
Well, I have to admit that even if I think I can sell a stupid idea to my players, such as the irrevocably dead protocol droid, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Odds are, if I think it’s stupid when I originally read it, it’s probably pretty stupid when I try to make it happen in the game. Having the droid end up dead served no purpose for the sake of the story, so there wasn’t any reason to keep the players from being able to work their mojo and save its life.
Oddly, I think that may have annoyed my players enough that they just wanted to beat something in response. Where last session, they were fairly willing to do things intelligently, there was a greater tendency to want to bring the noise this time. (See previous notation on the dead gang leader as an example.) They had debated murdering the rest of the assembled gang members, until it was pointed out that the local Imperials might be willing to do something with them.
Finally, equipment continues to be the most important part of the game, trumping most things like skills or talents. The Wookiee’s vibroaxe made extremely short work of the one NPC, and there wasn’t anything I could throw out to slow that train down. Not that this is a surprise to me, mind you. My Selonian Bounty Hunter had a similarly tricked out weapon near the end as well, but I ended up using it sparingly. Between that and her heavily modified gun, there wasn’t much that I couldn’t bring down with enough concentrated fire and a little bit of luck. Sure, my Smuggler could talk the ears off a Gundark, but if shit properly hit the fan, the Selonian’s weapon load-out was brutal enough to back it up. The same thing was true of their ship-based weaponry. (Which also pointed to how important Attributes end up being alongside a properly built set of gear. But that’s a discussion for another time entirely.)
All in all, things go well. The next session will bring the end of the current module, and once that’s out of the way, I’m likely going to have to launch into unknown territory. I have a number of ideas in mind, but it’s going to hinge on what sort of direction the players themselves take. We’ll see what happens.